- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2006

Shaky political arguments for going easy on illegal immigrants are sometimes backed up by equally shaky economic arguments.

There is, of course, the perennial favorite that we “need” immigrants to “do work that Americans won’t do.” But what is the basis for this claim?

What specific jobs in this country are performed exclusively by immigrants? Indeed, in what jobs are immigrants an absolute majority? Those who make this sweeping claim seldom offer a speck of evidence to support it.

In some particular places, such as California, agricultural jobs seem to be almost exclusively filled by immigrants. But, in a country with huge agricultural surpluses costing the taxpayers billions in subsidies and storage costs, why is there a “need” for more workers to increase the surpluses and the costs?

One editorial cartoon pictured consumers confronted with $20 lettuce because immigrants no longer grew or picked it for low wages. But it is our agricultural subsidy laws that drive up the price of fruits and vegetables by taking vast amounts of produce off the market, in order to keep prices artificially high.

If this surplus produce is not grown in the first place, that just saves subsidy and storage costs. The price of the fruits and vegetables sold in the market need be no higher than right now.

Even in fields like engineering or science, where particular immigrants bring particular skills much in demand, that is no argument for tolerating illegal immigration. Tolerating illegality means the immigrants determine what kinds of people enter our country and become part of the U.S. population, whether or not their skills, attitudes or behavior are wanted by Americans.

A broader economic claim is that immigrants add to the national output, benefiting us all as consumers. Plausible as this might sound, its logic will not stand up under scrutiny.

If more immigrants are a good thing, where do we stop —and why? Why not fling the doors open to all the people who want to immigrate here from Haiti or Cuba or anywhere else?

Even if every one of those immigrants added to the national output, that does not mean today’s American population would be economically better off after this unchecked influx from around the world.

After all, people not only produce, they consume — and some consume more than they produce, courtesy of the American taxpayers.

Nor are our schools or our neighborhoods improved by becoming a tower of Babel or scenes of clashing standards of behavior, noise or violence. We need to count all costs, not just money costs.

Why is this a far more prosperous country than the countries from which most of our immigrants come? Many of those countries are well endowed with natural resources but lack an economic and political culture that would allow those resources to produce better results than the poverty driving their people to other countries.

When you import people, you import cultures. Those cultures no longer give way to the American culture when “multiculturalism” is a dogma and its apostles and activists make it necessary for American laws, language, and culture to give way, or at least accommodate growing alien enclaves in our midst.

A nation is more than a collection of whatever population happens to reside within its borders. Something has to unite those people if the country is not to degenerate into the kind of unending internal strife brought on by Balkanization in many countries around the world, not just in the Balkans.

It can be a matter of national life and death whether a country is or is not united against its external enemies. Internal disunity contributed to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire over a period of centuries and to the much faster collapse of France, which surrendered after just six weeks of fighting in 1940.

A generation earlier, a united France had fought on for four long years, despite far higher casualties than in 1940.

Unity and patriotism are not luxuries. Survival in an international jungle depends on them. What are dangerous luxuries are the open borders that erode national solidarity. The fact we are already at each other’s throats over the immigration issue is an ominous sign.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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